What Is Conventional Language? (Answered)


The way we speak to one another on a daily basis is something we hold in common with those we live near and interact with. It is immediately noticeable when someone breaks these norms of speech whether in word choice, sentence structure, or even in pronunciation. This leads to the question, “What is conventional language?”

Conventional language is commonly agreed upon vocabulary, idioms, and phrases used in ordinary speech without including exclusionary language like jargon or obscure word choices. It is the accepted mode of conversation used by the average person in everyday situations.

In this article I will go into the difference between terms like traditional language, conventional language, jargon and more. This applies to most all languages and can be useful for those teaching or studying any of them. I will use English as a primary example, but these concepts can be seen in most any form of communication.

What Is Conventional English?

When talking about the English language, there are many situations and circumstances in which it can be used. There are professional settings, casual settings, and many others. Yet, in general there is a common sense of what English sounds like and how it is used. What is conventional English?

Conventional English is the common practices associated with English vocabulary choice, grammar, and especially idioms and other meaning infused words and phrases. It is defined by the billions of people that have used the language over the years to its present, modern iteration.

In other words, it is what has been commonly done and accepted by English speakers the world over for the past several generations. What it is not is technical vocabulary, professional jargon, or words not used in most conversations.

This is not to say that all of the conventions of today are even the same a those a couple of generations ago. Conventional English at its core stays mostly the same from one generation to the next, but things like sayings, trends, and habits can change.

Over the centuries, conventional English even at its core has changed, and will continue to do so in the future. But for those using English in a particular culture and time, there is a common way it is used and this is conventional English.

What Is The Difference Between Traditional And Conventional?

When speaking about cultural practices, morality, or other topics, traditional and conventional may have very similar meanings. Yet, in language they have slightly different foundations. So, what is the difference between traditional and conventional?

Traditional has ties to cultural, religious, and historical practices that have links to specific groups of people. Conventional crosses cultural, religious, and geographic boundaries and entails commonly held habits among a wide variety of peoples.

When specifically speaking about the difference between conventional language and traditional language commonly held methods of pronunciation, meaning, and usage are either linked to specific cultures or all speakers as a whole.

For example, there is a traditional way that someone speaks in the southern United States. There speed, intonation, pronunciation, etc. are unique to their region. Their word choice can even be similar to others from their area, but differ slightly from those hailing from others.

They will have these types of things in common with others around them, but also share some commonalities with other English speakers from different parts of the United States.

These common vocabulary choices, idioms, etc. is what is conventional, whereas what they hold in common only with those sharing their brand of American culture and history is what is termed traditional.

Here it must be stated that some will use these terms interchangeably even for language, while others will give them even more distinctions from one another. Here I am giving a general way to understand the differences in terms of language.

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Why Is Jargon Used?

What is common to most is quickly understood even by children in a given language and culture. The same can be said for language that seems ‘out of place’. This can be words that are too technical for common conversations or terms that are obscure or that have very specific definitions. Are these terms considered jargon, and why is jargon used?

Jargon is used by professionals, religious communities, or others as a method of shorthand communication. These words are packed with meaning that need not be restated. Using jargon in conventional speech can be a way to exclude others that don’t readily understand the meaning of the terms.

Here we have the same practice taking on a different meaning depending on the intention of the one doing it. In the right environment jargon can be an efficient way for those in a specific group to communicate.

Its importance and use in industry and even internet communications are highlighted in a study published in the EPRA International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (IJMR). Jargon is helpful in the right circumstances to aid in understanding complex and even newly appearing notions.

Yet, when jargon is used outside of these environments it tends to alienate others not familiar with its underlying meaning or definitions. This can be intentional on the part of the speaker or unintentional. It can come down simply to being a bit myopic and not acknowledging the various backgrounds of all present.

The worst case scenario for the use of jargon is when someone intends for others to feel inferior because they don’t understand some of the vocabulary or underlying meaning to certain phrases.

What are some examples of jargon?

  • Technical scientific terms related to specific jobs
  • Lesser known words about engine function and repair
  • Philosophical terminology rarely heard outside of texts and classrooms
  • Obscure theological words that can be stated more plainly
  • Vocabulary only regularly used by surgeons in operating rooms

These types of words and phrases are not bad in themselves, and can actually be a tool used in the proper context and situation to help all listeners gain a greater understanding.

On the other hand, when used in a context that includes people not familiar with them, these words and phrases could send a message of false superiority.

Just because someone is not acquainted with a particular words use doesn’t mean they can’t understand it. They simply have other focuses in their lives. We cannot be all things in society ourselves. We have to choose where to spend our time.

Using jargon effectively is a good thing in limited circumstances. Using it in most other situations where conventional language could do an adequate job could be seen as prideful and exclusionary.

What Is Another Word For Conventional?

Another way to understand a term like conventional language is to find other words that are more known that have similar meanings. This works in the same way examples and analogies function. So, what is another word for conventional?

Conventional when speaking about language has several synonyms:

  • standard
  • ordinary
  • typical
  • common
  • commonplace
  • general

Conventional also has other phrases that speak to its meaning:

  • generally done
  • generally believed
  • generally agreed upon
  • garden variety
  • run of the mill
  • in established usage

How about other words for language?

  • speech
  • communication
  • conversation
  • tongue

Conventional language is simply the commonly accepted way people speak in normal everyday conversations. It is commonplace and is general in terms of vocabulary selection. Words are generally agreed upon as normal and seen in established usage.

Conventional speech has a typical sound and it is easily recognizable as ‘odd’ or out of place when it is done in a non-standard way. If you are using jargon or words ‘above the level’ of the conversation, others will notice.

The Final Word On Conventional Language…

Conventional language is what is normal and easy on the ears for most people to hear in an ordinary conversation. No one likes someone showing up and interjecting technical jargon that requires a dictionary to follow a train of thought.

When the word choice, idioms, phrases, and expressions all are commonly known and understood by those listening, that is conventional language.

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Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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